I would like to understand from the community how your companies are handling Travel Approvals in Concur.
For my company, they wanted to implement very strict controls around approval of trips, so we have gone for the integration of Concur Request with Travel. In our workflow, the employee starts in Travel and selects the flights & hotels they would like to book. Once they have completed their itinerary, this is then sent to Request so that the employee can add their Trip Purpose and submit the itinerary to their manager for approval. We did this so that managers can see the exact costs of the options the employee has chosen.
Whilst this does technically work for us, it does create quite a few headaches for travellers. The biggest problem is that these travel requests have to be approved by the ticketing deadline for the airlines, which is often 11pm on the same day. We also get a few cases where employees go all the way through the Travel process, but then miss the step to actually submit their travel request to their manager.... which causes them annoyance when the system automatically cancels their booking at the ticketing deadline.
The other big headache is that we use alot of Instant Purchase carriers (EasyJet), so in this case we had to setup a step in our workflow that would automatically approve the travel request on behalf of the manager if the itinerary contains one of these IP carriers...
How do your companies handle Travel approval and management of costs? Do you just allow employees to book without approval if the costs are within policy? Do you have any other suggestions of how we could achieve our goals?
Thanks for your feedback,
This is a great question!
The first step is to know exactly what your objective is and work back from there. If the end result you're aiming for is a high adoption rate, employees who feel valued and trusted, less work for admins/emp managers, and being a step closer to automating the entire T&E process, you should remove all or most of the travel approvals.
It sounds crazy but I've been on both sides of this issue and felt very passionately on both sides. The COO of a very large, international company looked me in the eye and told me to remove all travel approvals in Concur for the entire company. After a 5-8 second awkward silence I picked my jaw up off the floor and frantically searched for the words to respectfully convey my doubts. Five minutes after that I went to work removing the approvals. Never have I been so happy to be proven wrong.
How Do You Prevent Fraud?
With the policies built into Concur we were able to generate a daily policy exception report sent to the COO and myself so any time travel was booked outside policy we would know about it the next morning. All but one were legitimate business needs such as proximity to office, preferred was sold out, the CEO told them to fly out tomorrow so they couldn't buy their ticket two weeks in advance, etc. The one that we addressed was a $10,000 flight that was booked incorrectly and we were able to fix it.
Travel approvals cause more friction than all other obstacles the employee sees combined.
Business travel is only glamorous for those who don't do it. It is exhausting, stressful, then throw in the business part and the glamour wears off fast. The thing road warriors dread the most though is doing their expense report. Our job is to remove 'Traveler Friction' by removing anything that slows them down. They can use all that extra time on doing their job!
Thanks very much for your reply and insight.
Personally, I agree with everything you wrote, and I long for a time when our employees can be trusted to use their own common sense and the policy rules to book the flights they need, with approval only being needed in exceptional cirucmstances.
However.... the company I work for see things very differently. Here they have the mentality that every penny spent must be approved by someone - which is why we have the Pre-Travel approval process in place so that managers know exactly what costs they are incurring before they occur...
My ideal goal, that I have discussed with the product managers for Concur Request, is for a Request to include a budget amount. For example, if an employee is travelling, they can ask for a budget of say 1000 GBP to cover their flights, hotels, etc. Then, if the request is approved, they can go ahead and book those options in Travel and the manager does not need to be involved again as long as the traveller stays within the approved budget.
Apparantly this is a very complicated development and is a long way down the development roadmap... but in conversations I have had with other Concur users, their companies would also like to have this type of ability.
Anyway, more comments welcome, I am very interested to hear how other companies are handling travel approvals.
in general, you have two options:
- pre-booking approval of business purpose without costs. If you want to use an upfront request before booking, feel free to do so. But please, never ever ask for estimated costs of the flights and so on, as people will start playing around with websites of any kind, indicating prices they will never be able to book.
- approval after booking, including prices, with all the limitations you mentioned
The more interesting question is: WHAT do you want to approve? And WHY? Will the information including costs not be sufficient enough?
Remember, you do not have a real choice regarding costs, as you have to accept whatever travel industry is offering you at the time of booking. Your policy is already in the system, so no one will be able to have a service he is not eligible to. If the person needs to travel, the price will always be within policy.
Customer samples show a very low rejection rate for approvals: 2 of 15.000 rejected (automotive, Germany), 0,5% rejected (Pharma, Germany)
In my opinion, standard trips are safe to be booked. Deviations can be tracked in reporting. So passive approval by infomail or no approval at all can be sufficient.
Thanks for your reply.
Whilst I agree with your points regarding the cost of flights being whatever the market says they are... the cost does come into the approval decision when deciding if an employee needs to travel or not....
For example, an employee may say to their boss that they need to travel to Hong Kong to meet with a team there. This may be a reasonable and typical request from the employee so the manager agrees. However, perhaps there is a big trade event taking place and the cost of all flights is well above the normal expected cost. In this case, the manager would likely ask the employee if the dates of the meeting can be moved forwards/backwards 1 week to a time when the flight costs return to normal.
The policy inside travel is good at benchmarking fares against the Lowest Logical Fare (LLF), however if the lowest fare is still well above the "typical" rate then this would not be considered, unless we spend time entering rules regarding the fares for different routes.... but for a global company this is not possible to maintain.
This brings me back to our wish for a "budget approval" mechanism, so that the manager can approve a pot of money for the trip, and if the employee can book within this pot then great, if they cannot then the further investigation / re-approval can be conducted.
valid points – but you need to handle the total volume, not the exceptions.
Best way to save money for travel activities is: stop traveling. If the company can’t, people have to accept the industry standards, which may change anytime.
Flight prices get more expensive the closer departure gets. Lowest logical fare, which travel managers love so much, is useless, as the base is on time of booking. Much cheaper rates might have been available 1, 3 or 14 days ago, which never show up in any report. Very smart travel managers do know this, and have a KPI defined for the pre-booking period, and report it. This is a much easier way to generate savings.
So let’s say Hong Kong has some 30 days of trade fairs, large events and whatever, causing higher prices. Your risk is still below 10% of traveling in that period. Why do you want to stop people from booking a trip, potentially causing higher prices, in the other 90% of cases?
Let’s say pre-booking approval takes 1 day in average, and you have 10.000 flights per year. Booking one day later WILL cause higher prices for most of them. If it is only 10 EUR in average, you are wasting 100.000 EUR: How many requests need to be rejected to get equal or exceeding savings?
And, regarding budgets: flight tickets are not containers full of pins, having always the same price. Prices change dynamically each day, each hour. Trying to apply annual budgets is useless when it comes to travel services.
Who is able to decide that your Hong Kong trip is not worth additional 1.000 EUR, or which amount ever? If you are unable to go there now to sign a contract, your deal might be cancelled. As a consequence, you will have missing turnovers for the future, and lost sales efforts for the past. Nice example of saving a company to death, as it unfortunately can be seen in so many cases.
As long as no reliable methodology for calculating the benefit of a business trip exists, you can only approve the business need, not the costs. Costs can only be an information which is nice to have.
We have a mixed approach in that everything below a certain amount for international flights goes through automatically. Everything over that threshold has to be approved by the travel manager within the time frame you mention. However, as the travel manager, I find the system to work well. Usually, I have an email from the manager well in advance with the list of travelers that are pre-approved.